What is Alabama Rot?

When you think of the health problems that are most likely to affect your dog you probably think of things like fleas, ear infections, and musculoskeletal issues. Each of these issues has a known cause and, therefore, an effective treatment plan. There are other health problems, however, which have no known cause and which can be difficult to treat – Alabama rot is one of them. Keep reading to learn more about this disease and how to prevent it.

Causes and Symptoms of Alabama Rot

Alabama rot is another name for idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV). Often a fatal condition, Alabama rot first appeared in the United States during the 1980s and it primarily affected the Greyhound breed. Today, this disease is known to affect all breeds indiscriminately and it has infected more than 100 dogs across nearly 30 counties since 2012.

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In the early stages, this disease manifests with skin lesions forming on the chest, legs, and abdomen. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include lethargy or general malaise as well as loss of appetite, vomiting, and retching. Once the kidneys become involved, the disease often leads to fatal kidney failure.

Since the 1980s, a number of theories have been kicked around regarding the cause of Alabama rot but the name idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy is still applicable – idiopathic means that the disease has no known cause. Some experts believe that the disease is bacterial in origin while others think it is caused by a parasite. One of the more widely accepted theories is that it is caused by the toxins produced by E. coli bacteria.

Treatment and Prognosis in Dogs

Unfortunately, the fact that Alabama rot has no known cause means that there is no singular treatment and no vaccine. Treatment for this condition is usually aimed toward wound management to promote healing and prevent infection. When the kidneys become involved, aggressive supportive therapy may help to increase the dog’s chances for recovery.

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Only about 25% of dogs infected with Alabama rot experience kidney involvement and, if it is treated early, many of them recover fully. Once the kidneys are damaged, however, it is usually irreversible. This is why it is a good idea to have your dog’s kidney function tested at the first sign of skin lesions, especially if they worsen over a period of several days.

If you are concerned about developing skin lesions on your dog’s body (particularly the chest, legs, and abdomen), talk to your veterinarian immediately. Depending on the severity of the problem, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection and the wounds themselves may need treatment.

Because the cause of Alabama rot is still unknown, there are no known preventive measures. Some experts recommend washing your dog after he gets muddy or wet on a walk, though there is no evidence to show that this is effective in preventing the disease. Your best bet is to keep an eye on your dog and to report any symptoms or behavioral changes to your veterinarian.


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